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Moore: How Zion Williamson’s Injury Update Shifts the Rookie of the Year Race & Perception of Pelicans

Moore: How Zion Williamson’s Injury Update Shifts the Rookie of the Year Race & Perception of Pelicans article feature image

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson.

  • No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson's injury news went from very bad to much worse on Monday.
  • Matt Moore breaks down how this new wrinkle effects the Pelicans and the Rookie of the Year race.

Well, this is lame.

Zion Williamson, the transformational, transcendent superstar rookie for the Pelicans underwent surgery Monday to remove his lateral meniscus. After initial reports put Williamson out four weeks, the new projection has him out 6-8 weeks.

The official statement from New Orleans described a “debridement” which indicates that the meniscus is to be removed, not repaired.

The difference is significant.

Removing the meniscus means a shorter recovery time but longer-term complications, via In Street Clothes. A repair would have meant likely Williamson missing the season with better long-term outcomes, but may not have been possible with the tear Williamson suffered.

In the aftermath of the early reports, I was holding out hope for the over of 39.5 wins based on their schedule.

But two months is a much bigger deal.

Their schedule the following month was already brutal, but now with the surgery coming this week, you have to tack on an extra week from the original recovery timeline.

In November, they face Golden State, Portland, Utah and both Los Angeles teams in a 10-day stretch. But those were likely losses anyway.

The bigger problem is their mid-December schedule filled with Eastern Conference teams. Williamson’s absence may flip games vs. Orlando, Brooklyn, and Detroit to losses or coin flips. Those are precious games.

As it stands, their under has to be the play with anything over 36 wins. It’s currently still 38.5 at DraftKings, 35.5 at FanDuel. At 35.5 it’s a stay-away, but anything above is an under play.

It should be noted, my Action Network colleagues Justin Phan and Rob Perez believe Williamson won’t “really be Zion” until March or later.

Odds as of Monday. Check out PointsBet, where Action Network users can access an exclusive promotion to get a 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150).

Zion moved to +300 at Westgate for Rookie of the Year after the news, but is -134 at PointsBet. At +300, I think there’s value, but my editor Scott Miller smartly pointed out that the number won’t get worse. You can wait to see how recovery goes and whether he comes back ahead or behind schedule (I want to stress again that Patrick Ewing won ROY with 50 games played, Brandon Roy at 57).

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for an alternative, there are some options

Tyler Herro is the first name who comes to mind. He was great during preseason for the Heat, and could get significant minutes for a prospective playoff team, especially with Dion Waiters’ drama possibly limiting his minutes and role. Herro is currently +1000, after opening +10000.

PJ Washington is a dark horse name, but one that needs consideration. He’s currently +20000.

P.J Washington preseason Per 36s

17.0 points
6.9 rebound
2.5 assists
2.2 stocks

.628/.500/.818 from the field with a .765 TS%

— TS% Eliot (@Cosmis) October 21, 2019

I’m still cool on RJ Barrett and Ja Morant, the prospective second and third best players (in some order) from this draft.

Barrett had a few worrying efficiency signs in preseason and plays on a veteran roster. Morant will get minutes, but I have a concern his shooting will be such a glaring limitation as to hurt his chances even with a high assist rate.

Coby White has also moved to +1000 from +2000, but it should be noted Tomas Satoransky will start for a team with playoff aspirations. Rookie point guards have a rough time, and this number will still probably be this high at some point in the season.

Rui Hachamura went from +5000 to +1200 after a strong preseason. Hachimura averaged 16.9 points per 36 minutes including 44% from 3-point range. The Wizards are going to be dreadful, but that also opens up big minutes and usage opportunities for Hachimura.

Michael Porter Jr. has the talent to win it, but from preseason indication, MPJ is at the back end of a deep rotation with Will Barton, Torrey Craig, and Juancho Hernangomez.

As of now, this still seems like it might be best to see how the minutes shake out. We may be looking at a much more open race than we thought previously.

I’m still expecting Zion to win it, given his athleticism and role on the Pelicans.

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